Absecon Considers Fixing Blighted Properties Making Owners Pay
April 9, 2018
Source: Shore News Today (full article)
eCode 360 (Collingswood, OH)
ABSECON — When it comes to getting lienholders to properly maintain their abandoned properties, Mayor John Armstrong believes the solution might be to just do it for them.
Addressing City Council on April 5, Armstrong said he’s in favor of creating an ordinance that would allow the city, through the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, to bring abandoned properties up to code and then place a lien on them. Property owners would be forced to either pay off their lien in a timely fashion or face losing their properties once that lien is sold.
It’s a proactive way to get mortgage owners of homes abandoned largely due to foreclosure, many of them banks, to start addressing the issue of blight caused by their derelict properties, he said.
“These banks, while they’re holding onto these properties, don’t want to spend money,” Armstrong said. “They wait and they wait and things start to deteriorate. You’d think it’d be in their best interest to maintain these properties, but all they do is slap on a Band-Aid.”
The abandoned home ordinance, as proposed, would go beyond simply cutting grass or boarding up broken windows to meet code standards, but would allow for significant work to help properties that have fallen into disrepair.
The effort should not cost the municipality either, Armstrong said. Through a joint municipal agreement with the improvement authority, the cost of construction would be paid through the authority, which not only has funding for such programs but already collects registration fees for homes that are left empty.
Though the ordinance has not been formally proposed, Armstrong said he would like to see one adopted within the next two months.
Armstrong said he’s seen the fruits of such a program in towns such as Collingswood, Camden County, which suffered with its own foreclosure problem and a declining downtown during the economic downturn. Armstrong said Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley told him a similar program helped resolve the issue of blight in his town and encouraged new homeownership.
Armstrong didn’t identify any properties specifically, but did say there are several that meet the criteria for such an ordinance. He hopes the ordinance sends a message to property owners to start making repairs.
“When you pick a property, there’s a whiplash response,” Armstrong said. “Mortgage holders and banks realize it’s for real.”